2021 Maria Moors Cabot Prize Winners Announced

For the First Time, All the Winners are Women
Two Special Citations Honor Female Reporters in Honduras and Mexico

July 21, 2021

Columbia Journalism School announced the 2021 winners of the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes for outstanding reporting on the Americas. The 2021 Cabot Prize winners are Eliane Brum, freelancer, Brazil; Adela Navarro Bello, Zeta, Mexico; Mary Beth Sheridan, The Washington Post, United States; and Adriana Zehbrauskas, photojournalist, United States/Brazil.

This year, for the first time in its history, the Cabot Prizes will honor an all-female slate of winners: four women journalists will receive gold medals. In addition, the Cabot Jury selected two 2021 Special Citation recipients that honor courageous reporting, also by women: Regina Martínez Pérez and The Cartel Project, and the news website Contracorriente, Honduras.

The Cabot Prizes honor journalists and news organizations for career excellence and coverage of the Western Hemisphere that furthers inter-American understanding. Godfrey Lowell Cabot of Boston founded the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes as a memorial to his wife in 1938. They are the oldest international journalism awards.

“With threats against the press on the rise in the Americas, including physical attacks and cyber-harassment targeting women reporters, I welcome the Cabot Jury’s selection of four outstanding female journalists to receive this year’s Cabot Prizes,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. “On behalf of the entire University, I would like to offer my congratulations and my thanks to the honorees for their talent and their courage.”

"From fearlessly investigating government corruption and drug cartels to documenting the underrepresented and holding leaders accountable, all of our 2021 honorees further our understanding among the Americas through news and images," said Cabot Board Chair Rosental Alves. "These four journalists provide new models of excellence in the estimable tradition of the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes."

Each winner will receive a gold medal and $5,000 honorarium. The 2021 Cabot Prize winners and Special Citation recipients will be celebrated on Tuesday, October 12.

2021 Maria Moors Cabot Prizes Winners

Eliane Brum, freelancer, Brazil

With threats against the Amazon rainforest and its Indigenous peoples on the rise, Eliane Brum decided to move to a town in the heart of the Amazon at personal risk. This is just one example of Brum’s dedication to coverage of the Amazon and other social and environmental issues in Brazil. Her stories and opinion columns have been published globally. Since 2013, she has written an op-ed column for Spain’s El País. She has also contributed to other major media outlets including The Guardian, The New York Times and Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Over the course of her 30-year career, Eliane Brum has often covered issues related to human rights and social justice. Prolific and indefatigable, she is the author of seven books and director or co-director of four documentaries. Her latest book translated into English is “The Collector of Leftover Souls - Field Notes on Brazil's Everyday Insurrections” (Graywolf Press, 2018), which made the National Book Awards Longlist for Translated Literature in 2019.

Brum’s recent coverage of the socio-environmental issues in the Amazon, including the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, reinforces her position as one of the most respected voices in Brazilian journalism.

Adela Navarro Bello, ZETA, México

Adela Navarro is a powerhouse of journalism in the Americas. As a reporter and editor of the weekly magazine ZETA, she exemplifies the best qualities of investigative reporting by holding authorities accountable and exposing their corruption and complicity with drug cartels rampant in the U.S.-Mexico border region.

Nominated by the staff of ZETA for her courage and leadership, Navarro is known for her critical and independent stances. She and her staff have been the targets of attacks, intimidation and even extreme violence. In 1988, ZETA co-founder Héctor Félix Miranda was assassinated, and another co-founder, Jesús Blancornelas, survived an assassination attempt in 1997. In 2004, another staff member of ZETA was killed under Navarro’s predecessor, Francisco Javier Ortiz Franco. In recent years, the magazine has once again been the target of constant attacks and smear campaigns by various Baja California state governments. Despite these pressures, Navarro refuses to be silenced. Under her leadership, ZETA continues to independently and exhaustively cover corruption, abuses of power, organized crime and in particular the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

For her courage, and her contributions to understanding the complexities of the U.S.-Mexico border, the Cabot Prizes Board is proud to honor Adela Navarro Bello with a 2021 gold medal.

Mary Beth Sheridan, The Washington Post, United States

Over a career spanning nearly three decades at The Associated Press, The Miami Herald, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post, Mary Beth Sheridan’s extraordinary dedication to coverage of the Americas became perhaps most strikingly evident when she made the decision in 2018 to leave her job as deputy foreign editor at the Post to return to reporting for the newspaper in Mexico and Central America.

Sheridan has used her extensive experience to create nuanced stories that help explain the region in gripping narrative prose. For example, she has written about the wide appeal of Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s presidency and simultaneous concerns about his leadership at a moment when many countries in Latin America are grappling with human rights violations, attacks on the press, corruption, drug trafficking, and the disappearances of tens of thousands of people. Sheridan has written about these issues not just in Mexico, but in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia and other nations.

Through Sheridan’s watchful lens, at both a macro and micro level, and through her vivid storytelling, she has kept Latin America a vital region in every newsroom where she has worked.

Adriana Zehbrauskas, photojournalist, United States/Brazil

Adriana Zehbrauskas is a U.S.-based Brazilian photojournalist and documentary photographer whose illuminating portraits of people in desperate circumstances are known for their intimacy and empathy. A freelancer published by major media across the region, her work greatly contributes to our understanding of the Americas.

Her photographs from South America, Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border are rich in color and humanity. Zehbrauskas sees beyond the poverty of Central American migrants on the move to the U.S. border, as she does with the mothers of Zika babies in Brazil and the families of the 43 students murdered in Ayotzinapa, Mexico.

Following a year-long assignment photographing the family of one of the Ayotzinapa victims, Zehbrauskas launched a broader project called "Family Matters." She takes iPhone portraits of families in rural Guerrero State and makes prints for villagers who want them. It is an effort to preserve memory and culture in an impoverished region that has been under continuous assault from drug traffickers and state-sanctioned violence. It is an example of Zehbrauskas’ respect for the marginalized people she photographs, and her effort to give something back to them.

2021 Maria Moors Cabot Special Citations

Regina Martínez Pérez and The Cartel Project

For more than 30 years — including her last 12 with the weekly Proceso — Regina Martínez Pérez searched for the truth. Her determination led her to investigate how politicians and organized crime interests colluded in Veracruz, Mexico, one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a journalist.

She paid with her life. “La Chaparrita,” as she was widely known, was assassinated in 2012. Her killers wanted to silence her, but Regina’s work was ultimately heard well beyond Mexico. Eight years after her murder, a team of reporters from Mexico, Europe and the US picked up where Martínez left off. They formed “The Cartel Project,” and published several stories in 20 countries, inspiring journalists all over the hemisphere and beyond.

In these difficult times when independent journalism is under attack in Mexico and many other countries in the Americas, the Cabot Board honors the late Regina Martínez Pérez and “The Cartel Project” with a 2021 Maria Moors Cabot Special Citation as an enduring example of resistance and defiance in the face of adversity, pain and death.

Contracorriente, Honduras

In Honduras, a Central American country ravaged by narco-corruption, COVID-19 and back-to-back hurricanes, a digital publication has emerged to recount the impact of these disasters on everyday people.

Contracorriente was founded in 2017 on a hope and a shoestring. Guided by Jennifer Ávila, its editor, and Catherine Calderón, development director, it has grown into a dynamic multimedia website providing lucid, factual coverage of the country’s troubles.  From drug trafficking and criminal violence to environmental destruction and attacks on Indigenous rights, Contracorriente probes the issues with well-honed reporting, holding the government to account despite grave risks to their journalists.  

In recent years, as despairing Hondurans fled by the thousands heading for the United States, Contracorriente filled a void, explaining the push factors and narrating the migrants’ journeys.  To the team of Contracorriente, for their invaluable, intrepid reporting in a time of great crisis for Honduras, the jury awards a 2021 Maria Moors Cabot Special Citation.

Members of the Cabot Prize Board in 2021: Jury Chair Rosental Alves, Knight Chair in International Journalism, University of Texas, Austin; Hugo Alconada Mon, investigative journalist, La Nación; Juan Enríquez Cabot, chairman and CEO of Biotechonomy, LLC; Carlos Dada, founder and director of the news website El Faro; Gustavo Gorriti, journalist and founder of IDL Reporteros, a non-profit, investigative journalism website; Marjorie Miller, vice president, Global Enterprise editor, The Associated Press; Julia Preston, contributing writer at The Marshall Project, previously covered immigration at The New York Times; Giannina Segnini, director of the Master of Science Data Journalism Program at the Journalism School at Columbia; Elena Cabral, assistant dean, academic programs and communications at the Journalism School at Columbia; Tracy Wilkinson, reporter covering foreign affairs out of the Los Angeles Times’ Washington bureau; Abi Wright, executive director of Professional Prizes at the Journalism School at Columbia.